In 1965, Choctaw, Pushmataha, and McCurtain counties in southeast Oklahoma each had a separate community action agency. Information gathered from old records shows that the following OEO programs were operated by these separate agencies: administration, emergency food and medical, neighborhood centers, summer Head Start and full year Head Start.
In 1968, these three agencies merged into one community action agency in order to better meet the needs of southeast Oklahoma. The board of directors drafted articles of incorporation and by-laws.
Southeast Oklahoma, with its mountainous geography and high precipitation, is very different from the rest of Oklahoma and other Great Plains states. The climatic conditions in southeast Oklahoma are very much like the climatic conditions in the Deep South states. For this reason, "Little Dixie" was selected as the name for the new community action agency.
Little Dixie Community Action Agency, Inc. was incorporated as a nonprofit organization on March 21, 1968. The agency's purpose as stated in its original articles of incorporation was "To assist in developing, executing, and coordinating plans and the programs authorized under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and subsequent amendments which may be made to that act, and other Federal, State, and local laws and programs which will tend to alleviate and eradicate poverty within the area of operation of this agency, exclusively for charitable purposes."
Fred Tucker was the first executive director for Little Dixie. Gail Landreth was the first bookkeeper. These were the agency's only two administrative staff in 1968.
Tucker served as executive director for 25 years until his death in 1993. His service to Community Action is honored each year when the Oklahoma Association of Community Action Agencies bestows the Fred Tucker Award for excellence and longevity among the state’s Community Action employees. Little Dixie Community Action Agency Executive Directors since Mr. Tucker:
- Bob Yandell (1993-2005)
- Randall Erwin (2005-2008)
- Brenda Needham (2008 to present)
Throughout its history, Little Dixie has progressively grown, adding new programs to meet the needs in our area. In 1971, Little Dixie had an annual budget of $607,583.
Today the agency's current budget is close to $25 million.
According to the 1970 census, 63.6% of the residents in the tri-county area had incomes below the OEO poverty guidelines. Now, according to the 2000 census, 24% of the residents of the tri-county area are living below poverty. This decrease in poverty is due primarily to the anti-poverty programs implemented through the years by Little Dixie Community Action Agency.
To learn about the National Community Action Agency movement, click here.